Monday, October 23, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The Populist Tax Cuts for the Wealth (AKA The Trump-Bannon Scam)

UPDATE III:  Last wee "the Senate approved its budget blueprint, a critical step in getting to the Republican Party’s most important legislative priority: tax cuts. Their plan now is to rush a tax bill through as quickly as possible so that opponents don’t have time to mobilize, of course without any input from Democrats.

We knew from the beginning that the bill would be a massive giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, because that’s what a Republican tax bill will inevitably be. But if you think this has anything to do with 'tax reform,' you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley has a good description of the Republican strategy:

    Almost no one on or off Capitol Hill has seen the tax overhaul bill that Republicans are drafting behind closed doors. Congressional staff members have not settled on many key details. Yet party leaders are preparing to move ahead on a timeline even more aggressive than their unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

    The swift pace to complete, release and quickly vote on a tax cut is aimed at leaving little time for the type of dissent that has scuttled previous tax proposals.

    Senators approved a budget resolution for the 2018 fiscal year on Thursday night, setting up a rapid series of hearings and votes with the aim of getting a bill to President Trump by Christmas.

The most important thing to understand about this process is that Republicans are in a state of near-panic over the prospect of this bill not passing. Having failed to repeal the ACA — or pass any bill of real consequence — they feel that they need to deliver something they can call a victory, or their base will punish them mercilessly in the 2018 elections. They’re already getting nervous about Stephen K. Bannon’s project to run right-wing nut-bar challengers against Republican incumbents. Not passing this bill 'will be the end of us as a party,' said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), 'because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?' . .

At the end of all this, Republicans are going to have a Rose Garden ceremony vibrating with such celebratory joy that you’d think they just cured cancer, ended global warming and terraformed Mars. The actual bill will be nothing like what they describe — it won’t be aimed at the middle class, it won’t simplify the tax code and it won’t be real 'reform.' Nor will it produce the spectacular trickle-down effects they promise. In other words, it’ll be pretty much like every other Republican tax cut."

Read the Washington Post, The Republican tax scam is about to kick into overdrive.

UPDATE II:  "The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every aspect of their tax plan.

I’m not talking about dubious interpretations of evidence or misleading presentation of the facts — the kind of thing the Bush administration used to specialize in. I’m talking about flat-out, easily refuted lies, like the claim that America has the world’s highest taxes (among rich countries, we have close to the lowest), or the claim that estate taxes are a huge burden on small business (almost no small businesses pay any estate tax).

Nor do I mean that there are just one or two big lies. There are many — so many I literally don’t have space to so much as list them in this column. In a long blog post this past weekend I tried to provide a systematic list; I came up with 10 major Republican lies about tax cuts, and I’m sure I missed a few.

So, politically, can they really get away with this? A lot depends on how the news media handles it. If an administration spokesperson declares that up is down, will news reports simply say 'so-and-so says up is down, but Democrats disagree,' or will they also report that up is not, in fact, down? I wish I were confident about the answer to that question.

One thing we know for sure, however, is that a great majority of Republican politicians know perfectly well that their party is lying about its tax plan — and every even halfway competent economist aligned with the party definitely understands what’s going on.

What this means is that everyone who goes along with this plan, or even remains silent in the face of the campaign of mass dissimulation, is complicit — is in effect an accomplice to the most dishonest political selling job in American history."

Read The New York Times, The G.O.P. Is No Party for Honest Men.

UPDATE: "Alas when it comes to governance, Trumpism turns to have two fatal weaknesses: the dearth of Trumpists among elected Republicans, and the total policy incapacity of Trump himself. So having failed in his appointed role as Trump whisperer and White House brain, Bannon has decided to do the Tea Party insurgency thing all over again, except this time with his nationalist-populist cocktail instead of the last round’s notional libertarianism.

Maybe it will work. Maybe repetition is the charm. Maybe the Tea Party was a dead end, but some Trumpist primary candidates will finally produce a Republican Party capable of doing something with its power.

If you squint at the Bannon vision, you can almost imagine it. His professed nationalism, with its promise of infrastructure projects and antitrust actions and maybe even tax hikes on the rich, is potentially more popular than the Tea Party vision — an easier sell to swing voters than a stringent libertarianism or a zombie Reaganism, a more plausible response to the new political landscape that the stale agenda currently on offer on a Republican-controlled Capitol Hill.

But this imaginative exercise collapses when you look at Bannon’s own record and the candidates he’s recruiting.

The record features big talk about populism and political realignment, plus a dismissal of the white identitarians and racists drawn to his flame as just incidental idiots ... but it never seems to cash out in anything except a return to empty, race-baiting culture war.

At the White House, Bannon did not manage to inject much heterodoxy into any part of the same old, same old Republican agenda. But he did encourage the president to pick racialized fights at every chance. On the evidence so far, his new grass-roots populism promises to be more of the same: a notional commitment to some nebulous new agenda, with white-identity politics and the fear of liberalism supplying the real cultural-political cement.

Especially because the would-be senators he’s recruiting are a mix of cynics and fanatics who seem to share no coherent vision, just a common mix of ambition and resentment. . .

Which is not to say Bannon is delusional. He and his allies are the latest group to recognize the void at the heart of the contemporary Republican Party, the vacuum that somebody, somehow needs to fill. The activists and enforcers of the Tea Party era tried with a libertarian style of populism. Paul Ryan tried with his warmed-over Jack Kempism. My friends the “reform conservatives” tried with blueprints for tax credits and wage subsidies. They all failed, and the Bannon crew actually got furthest, in the sense that they got the most unlikely figure imaginable elected president on something resembling their platform. . .

But if I were Steve Bannon, or any other Republican with a vision for the G.O.P. future beyond the hapless 'governance' on display today, I would not be wasting my time trying to elect a few cranks and gadflies who will make Mitch McConnell’s life more difficult.

Instead I would be looking for the thing that too many people deceived themselves into believing Trump might be, and that Bannonite populism for all its potential strength now lacks: a leader."

Read The New York Times, The Bannon Revolution.

"The Trump administration is set to roll out a new analysis on Monday that supposedly demonstrates that Trump’s proposed tax plan would ultimately boost middle class incomes by thousands of dollars. This is based on the notion that corporations will pass their tax savings under Trump’s plan on to workers, something that other researchers doubt. In reality, this line of argument is really meant to mask the fact that Trump’s tax framework — which Republicans are working on in Congress — would lavish most of its benefits on the very highest earners.

Trump allies and Republicans are so desperate to pass this tax plan that they’re also doubling down on another strange argument: If Republicans don’t get this plan passed, their majority in Congress is doomed — and with it, so is the Trump agenda. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed this line yesterday on 'Face the Nation,' arguing that if Republicans don’t pass tax reform, 'we’re dead.'

But these two lines of argument, when taken together, actually illustrate just how deep the scamming around these matters really runs. In fact, the scamming is so out of control that it has taken on a life of its own, and it is hard to keep track of all of its various components at this point.

Here is the storyline we are being asked to believe. Former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon is promoting primary challengers against Senate GOP incumbents, arguing that the GOP establishment has diverted from the 'populist economic nationalist' agenda that powered Trump’s victory. Republicans lament that this constitutes a serious threat to both the GOP and Trump — and now they’re saying that getting the tax cuts passed is the only way to ward off that threat. . .

Really? The only conceivable way for the GOP to save itself from the 'economic populist' ferment among GOP voters is to pass an enormous tax cut for the wealthy and corporations? Can someone explain why we are supposed to believe this?

Read the Washington Post, The scamming runs very, very deep.

Trump's Big CON: It's All About the Show, "Fly Me to the Moon" Edition

"The oratory was lofty, the setting, before the space shuttle Discovery, was fitting. Guests included the secretaries of state, transportation and commerce, and the chief executives of some of the largest aerospace companies in the world, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

During the first meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council last week, Vice President Pence vowed in soaring rhetoric that the United States would not only return astronauts to the moon, but that 'we will push the boundaries of human knowledge. We will blaze new trails into the great frontier. And we will once again astonish the world as we boldly go to meet our future in the skies and stars.' . .

Since [1962 each president has given his] own version of the space speech, an attempt to rally the country and recapture the national pride that came with the 1960s-era Apollo program. It has become something of a rite of passage. And last week, at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center, it was the Trump administration’s turn to make the space speech, with Pence at the podium.

And yet, for all the talk, there has been little progress over the past four decades. The United States has not returned astronauts to the moon, or gone to Mars — or met any of the lofty promises wafting out of the White House, as one administration aims for the moon, the next for Mars, then the next for the moon again."

Read the Washington Post, Pence vows America will return to the moon. The history of such promises suggests otherwise.